Time To Think About Customer Experience Is Now
A recent live poll of marketing managers by the Marketing Association revealed how they were intending to adjust their plans for what will likely be a tough year or two ahead for most businesses and consumers. Results below:
28% – Adapting our products and services
27% – Develop new creative
24% – Change our media mix
17% – Introduce new digital channels
5% – Something else
Whilst the poll didn’t go into depth about what each of the top three ranked areas would include, it’s safe to assume that they would be geared towards increasingly cash strapped Kiwis and thinner marketing budgets post virus lockdown.
In this post I want to focus on the first point, ‘Adapting our products and services’ and what that means. Many of you will already have your plans in place to modify your products and services to cater for tougher times ahead. But this top point is where ‘Design thinking’ and Customer Experience mapping (CX) applies for those who don’t. This doesn’t necessarily apply only to your core products, but instead to the services and experiences that support them and your brand.
Customer Experience as we all know has been a buzz-phrase in the industry for the past few years, with many creative agencies in the ongoing hunt for revenue claiming to offer a CX roadmap service. In the creative department, we were often asked to include some non-advertising concepts that lived in the CX space to go along with our ad concepts presentation. No doubt many of you will be familiar with this procedure.
However, it began to occur to me that our chances of getting one of those ideas through were slim, and that it was always more of a case of the Account Execs wanting to demonstrate to the client how clever we were. It may seem obvious now, but I also thought that surely the clients we were pitching these ideas at would have a department that was specifically tasked with exploring new customer experiences.
Creative agencies and CX
It’s true that some ideas from agencies do get taken up by the client, think ASB’s Clever Kash digital piggy bank, but that is the exception to the rule. Mostly it’s a vanity project or the arrogance of agencies to think we can solve a client’s business issues by throwing random ideas at the wall and hoping some of it will stick. The ideas we pitched as an agency were generally welcomed as good display of creative or lateral thinking, but never bought.
A few years later of course and after having worked with a CX agency I realise I was correct – there are entire departments within those businesses focussed on developing new products and services in the CX space. And none of the ideas we pitched were based on the kind of robust research and analysis of the business issues necessary to determine what the customers wanted or what their pain points were.
For many businesses, I would advocate developing new customer experiences, then promoting that industry leading product or service in advertising. This applies particularly well to banks, where there is generally just a paper width difference between them in terms of product offering. Only by winning the customer experience arms race can they get ahead of their competitors, and even then, this is never a permanent state of being for any one bank.
Z’s ‘Fastlane’ for fuel with accompanying app came about as a direct result of customer experience mapping and it represents the perfect PHD holy trinity – a Physical, Human and Digital integrated experience. https://z.co.nz/fastlane/
As another example, some supermarkets around the world are enabling shoppers to scan and pay for products via their mobile phones as they place items in their shopping trolley, avoiding time spent queuing and in checkouts – another great example of the PHD trinity.
Once example I love, whilst not digital, still keeps the shoppers needs uppermost. Who amongst us doesn’t hate spending $5 on a punnet of herbs only to use half of them, with the rest drying out in your fridge only to be thrown away a few days later? Dutch supermarket Albert Heijn has racks of live herbs, allowing customers to cut as little or as much of each as they want, saving them money whilst reducing waste and plastic packaging. https://www.trendhunter.com/trends/instore-farming
No doubt some of your requirements don’t need to be so flashy and could just involve a tweak to a subscription policy, contents or price. And likely these types of smaller tweaks aimed at the budget conscious will become the focus of many CX strategies going forward.
Here’s the brilliance of CX
The design thinking CX process is also intended to break our pattern thinking. We’re evolutionarily designed to recognise and form patterns. If our ancient ancestors had to work out each time that the orange colour of tiger or the stripes of a snake hiding in the grass meant danger, we wouldn’t have lived long enough to get another chance. We had to recognise patterns quickly to be able to work out which situation represented something life threatening and which didn’t. Forming patterns also helped us create maps of the physical environment for navigation and recall of locations of food sources. We’ve retained this pattern thinking to this day.
However now that the most dangerous thing we do in the search for food is the drive to the supermarket, our pattern thinking is free to be applied to other things– which may include your line up of products or services and sticking to old or irrelevant customer experiences. Design Thinking is intended to overcome these subconscious evolutionary thinking patterns so you can develop products and experiences that will truly suit your consumer and hopefully give you a market leading edge.
It does this through a rigorous iterative process (doing something again and again to improve it) in order to understand your user, challenge assumptions, redefine the problem and provide solutions which may not have been immediately apparent due to our pattern thinking. It can also de-risk your development of products and experiences to avoid costly mistakes.
The CX process It’s not a silver bullet on its own, you have to take action ultimately and implement the new ideas and services. And of course, it’s no use developing a brilliant new product or service if you don’t let consumers know about it.
Lastly, it’s only after working with a dedicated CX agency and witnessing first hand their mind bogglingly thorough and in-depth process that I realised three things:
• It’s unlikely that creative agencies will never compete with this service.
• Advertising alone won’t solve business issues, and advertising comes after new CX developments.
• Get the experts in when you want to initiate the CX development process.